When the 2009 regular season came to an end, no team may have felt more frustration than the New York Giants.
A team that seemed to be on its way to their second-straight NFC East title after a 5-0 start only won three of their last 11 games to finish the season 8-8.
With an injury-filled defense, the Giants finished toward the bottom of the league in average points allowed (30th) with 26.7 points per game. Over the final two weeks of the regular season the defense struggled so badly, they were outscored by a combined 85-16 to the Carolina Panthers and Minnesota Vikings.
There are a number of words the Giants and their fans could use to describe how their season took a turn for the worst—mainly frustration and disappointment. However, all New York can do at this point is look at the positive and use it to its advantage in 2010.
Prior to last season, the Giants were criticized for their weak wide-receiving core after the release of Plaxico Burress—who is currently in the middle of a two-year jail sentence. Many assumed Manning and company would struggle throughout the season without a big-name wide receiver.
Apparently, they were wrong.
In a season where Manning was supposed to struggle without his top target in Burress, he finished with career highs in just about every category. He was one of 10 quarterbacks to finish with over 4,000 yards to go along with his 62.3 completion percentage and 27 touchdowns.
As much credit as he deserves for his impressive 2009 season, Manning would never have had that type of success without the emergence of his fellow wide receivers.
Steve Smith finished second behind Wes Welker with 107 receptions in just his third season. He also finished with 1,220 receiving yards and seven touchdowns on the way to his first Pro Bowl.
Second-year wideout Mario Manningham finished with 57 catches for 822 yards and five touchdowns. Even Hakeem Nicks played a major role in his first NFL season, finishing with 47 catches for 790 yards and six touchdowns.
Now that the Giants officially have a solid group of young receivers, the expectations will be high next season. With Smith, Manningham, and Nicks, the Giants should be contenders once again for not just the NFC East, but the Super Bowl.
With another year of experience under their belts, Manning's receiving core could become one of the top trios in the NFL next season.
If this happens, for the first time in his career, there's every reason to believe Manning could be in the running for the MVP in 2010. It may sound crazy, but he only finished with 479 yards and six touchdowns less than his brother Peyton in 2009—who became the first player in NFL history to win the award four times.
The Giants contain enough talent on their roster to be one of the most dangerous teams in football next season. If Manning and company can bounce back after last season's collapse with the type of talent they have, New York will be strong contenders to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLV.
If the Giants do make a strong run at the playoffs, don't be surprised if Manning's name is thrown around in the MVP talks.
He is also the founder of the new NFCEastFootball.com.